Despite recurring LinkedIn posts announcing new diversity and inclusion programs within big tech, less than 6% of Black professionals work in the tech industry. The lack of diversity isn’t a problem solely seen in numerical data, it’s something that is present in our daily lives — from the latest updates on Google’s racial discrimination lawsuit all the way to tweets about seven-round interviews that end with “you don’t fit the company culture.”
While the lack of melanin in tech is a story we have all heard before, there is a new chapter in this tale that we haven’t read, and that chapter is Web3. Web3 is the new iteration of the world wide web based on blockchain technology. On the technical side, this new web is focused on returning power to the individual user. Culturally, the Web3’s focus is COMMUNITY.
Community is so central to the platform, in fact, they have established specific practices to distinguish yourself. You can change the profile photo to your NFT, and there’s even special lingo.
It makes one wonder — could Web3 be the start of a new era for the tech industry? A carved out space where people from all walks of life are welcome and come together to geek over their favorite PFP NFT, discuss the latest DAO update and build innovative technology in the process — sounds like a digital utopia, right? On the surface, yes, but if you scroll through Twitter, hop into Discord and listen in on Twitters Spaces, you will quickly see that this utopia doesn’t exist for POC utilizing Web3.
To dig deeper into this topic, we need to look at the Web3 community in three groups: (B2B) business-to-business, business-to-creator, and (B2C) business-to-consumer. As a marketing professional within Web3, I have connected with every major marketplace, software company and big agency within the space and based on my observations, less than 1% of Black professionals work within these companies.
Why does this matter?
With little-to-no Black people in positions of power, we have no say or stake in curating partnerships, facilitating campaigns, creating change for creatives or developing projects pertaining to the culture.
So, why aren’t people talking about this?
Well, a quick google search of “What percentage of Black people are in Web3?” paints a different story. The first article that pops up is “Why Black Americans are leading the NFT, crypto revolution.” Despite the clickable title, this article focuses on a particular viewpoint from ONE Black co-founder within the Web3 space. The truth of the matter is, the majority of Black people within Web3 are influencers, artists, creators and educators.
What does this all mean? Well, if there are no Black people actually working at Web3 companies, but the majority of the creators and cultural innovators in Web3 are Black, wouldn’t there be a disconnect? Naturally. That disconnect results in a bunch of people trying to imitate culture and community without including the people who are actually behind the lifestyle and ideology. Sound familiar?
And if those two points don’t rile you up, you need to take a look at my final point, which revolves around B2C. This group is worth mentioning because there is a lack of education for consumers, specifically Black consumers, regarding the Web3 space. The leading companies are more focused on marketing to current individuals who are already in Web3 rather than educating and onboarding the masses.
What’s the result? Information regarding financial growth and innovation within Web3 is limited to what society refers to as “the boys club.” And that only scratches the surface of inequality — the most blatant display lies within the current conference structure.
Web3 conferences like NFT Week, Bitcoin Conference and SXSW all draw thousands of people each year, yet the list of speakers tends to largely be male and white. Not to mention, on the rare occasion that they ask a person of color to speak, no form of compensation is offered. This has stirred up a whirlwind of emotions for POC communities in Web3, as many people consider creating their own events.
The Black community is no stranger to creating our own spaces and institutions. From REVOLT and BET to HBCUs, there are so many examples. But, the counter question still stands: Why should we have to?
Isn’t the point of Web3 to be inclusive? Or is that just something people say to make themselves feel good? And if that’s the case, then what’s the point of carving out this new lane of technology if it’s just going to perpetuate the same issues we have seen before?
It’s time to remove the Bored Ape shirt, take off the CryptoPunks watch and look under the surface to see what is really going on. Are we going to let history repeat itself? Or are we going to get to the root of the problem and address these issues before they evolve into another way in which Black people are left out?
Community groups like Black NFT Art, ZORA, Ethereum Homies, Friendly Black Hotties, Royals NFT, Sound.xyz and others are working tirelessly to curate safe spaces for people of color to learn about Web3, connect with other Black artists, and utilize the technology to build something great.
But is this enough?
It’s time to start holding these brands and companies accountable for what they preach on a daily basis. If you truly want to curate an inclusive community, then what are you doing to make that happen? SHOW US THE RECEIPTS.
There are so many ways forward, but only time will tell.